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Learn the remedy for kids’ medicine mishaps

Posted 12/17/2015 by UHBlog

Jerri Rose
JERRI ROSE, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

From misused medications to side effects and errors in dosing, problems with medicines send about 17 million Americans to the emergency room every year. A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows that a large number of these incidents involve children.

In fact, about one in 12 pediatric ER visits occurs because of prescription or over-the-counter drugs – and these trips are more likely to end with kids staying in the hospital. About two-thirds of these events could have been prevented, the researchers found.

When remedies go wrong

In many cases, medicines vastly improve your child’s health. But as the study shows, they must be used with care. More than 160 emergencies in the study occurred when kids: Had an allergic or other negative reaction to a medicine Received the wrong drug or the wrong dose – either too high or too low Did not take the medicine as directed Took two or more drugs that caused a harmful interaction

More than 200 types of medicines were involved, from over-the-counter pain pills to chemotherapy. But some caused more problems than others. For instance, antibiotics and respiratory medicines each accounted for about one-fourth of the incidents.

Prevention: The best medicine

Learn the remedy for kids’ medicine mishaps

Forget the spoonful of sugar – the best way to safely make medicines go down is to use them properly. Whether your child takes prescription or over-the-counter drugs:

Ask the doctor or pharmacist for complete instructions. “This includes what the medicine is for, how much to give, proper timing, and known side effects,” says Jerri Rose, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine doctor at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Closely read the label each time you give the drug to your child.

Give the correct dose for your child’s age and weight. Measure it with the tool in the package. Or, ask the pharmacist for an accurate spoon, syringe or dropper. “Do not use kitchen teaspoons or tablespoons, as these vary in size and will likely result in incorrect dosing of medication,” adds Dr. Rose.

Use child-friendly medicine. Adult medicines should not be given to kids. Ask the doctor or pharmacist if you cannot find a child-friendly formula.

Ask the doctor or pharmacist before giving two or more medicines at the same time. Some drugs have a harmful interaction when combined. In other cases, two medicines may have the same active ingredient. “For instance,” says Dr. Rose, “you should not give acetaminophen to relieve pain or reduce fever along with a cold formula that already contains it. (Furthermore, cold medications are generally not recommended for use in children.)”

Dr. Rose adds, “Make sure medications are kept in a safe place, not just at home, but everywhere your child spends time.” Always store medicines up and away where your child cannot reach them. And keep child safety caps firmly engaged. It only takes seconds for kids to reach and ingest potentially toxic amounts of any drug.

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